Mayor Convicted On First Day

San Diego City Councilman Michael Zucchet arrives at Federal Court during closing arguments in his trial Tuesday, July 12, 2005 in San Diego. Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza face federal corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes from a San Diego strip club.
A federal jury on Monday convicted San Diego's new acting mayor and a city councilman of taking payoffs from a strip club owner to help repeal the "no-touching" ordinance at nude clubs, the latest blow to a city already awash in scandal.

Michael Zucchet, who became interim mayor over the weekend, was found guilty of conspiracy, extortion and fraud on his first business day in office. He was immediately suspended from office, his attorney said.

Councilman Ralph Inzunza, who was convicted of the same charges, also was suspended.

The jury also returned guilty verdicts against former Clark County, Nev., Commissioner Lance Malone, who worked for strip club owner Michael Galardi to repeal San Diego's ban preventing nude dancers and patrons from touching each other.

It is unclear who will succeed Zucchet, whose conviction leaves the city rudderless at one of the most troubled points in its history. Mayor Dick Murphy resigned and left office Friday, eight months into a second term cut short by mounting problems at City Hall.

The verdicts were reached on the fourth day of deliberations. Zucchet sat staring straight ahead, occasionally glancing up at the ceiling, as the verdicts were read.

Each man could face three to four years in prison.

Zucchet and Inzunza, both 35, were accused of taking $34,500 in cash bribes and campaign contributions from Galardi in a failed plot to repeal the city's "no-touch" ordinance. Malone allegedly delivered the wads of cash from Galardi to Inzunza and Zucchet.